Statins and cognitive function in the elderly: The Cardiovascular Health Study

C. Bernick, R. Katz, N. L. Smith, S. Rapp, R. Bhadelia, M. Carlson, L. Kuller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To examine the association of statin drug use on cognitive and MRI change in older adults. Methods: Participants in the Cardiovascular Health Study, a longitudinal study of people age 65 or older, were classified into three groups determined by whether they were taking statin drugs on a continuous basis, intermittently, or not at all. The untreated group was further divided into categories based on National Cholesterol Education Program recommendations for lipid-lowering treatment. Participants with prevalent or incident clinical TIA or stroke or with baseline Modified Mini-Mental State Examination (3MS) scores at or below 80 were excluded. Outcomes examined included rate of change on the 3MS over an average observational period of 7 years, along with changes in MRI white matter grade and measures of atrophy. Results: Three thousand three hundred thirty-four participants had adequate data for analysis. At baseline, the untreated group in which lipid-lowering drug treatment was recommended were slightly older, less likely to be on estrogen replacement, and had higher serum cholesterol and lower 3MS scores than the statin-treated group. The rate of decline on the 3MS was 0.48 point/year less in those taking statins compared with the untreated group for which treatment was recommended (p = 0.069) and 0.49 point/year less in statin users compared with the group in which lipid-lowering treatment was not recommended (p = 0.009). This effect remained after controlling for serum cholesterol levels. One thousand seven hundred thirty participants with baseline 3MS scores of >80 underwent cranial MRI scans on two occasions separated by 5 years. There was no significant difference in white matter grade change or atrophy measures between groups. Conclusion: Statin drug use was associated with a slight reduction in cognitive decline in an elderly population. This relationship could not be completely explained by the effect of statins on lowering of serum cholesterol.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1388-1394
Number of pages7
Issue number9
StatePublished - Nov 8 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology

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